Soon after my early August photo session with Mike T., I got a chance to start creating some drawings of him. For my first drawing I chose a shot of Mike which happened this way: I had him wearing white briefs and getting wet in a tidepool. I wanted to see him in soaking-wet briefs. So I got those shots, and they weren’t all that great. So I had him take off the briefs. As soon as he took them off he started wringing them out, and that made for some nice shots. Then I got an idea. I told him to start wiping the briefs across his chest, then his stomach, and in effect using it as a washcloth. This made for a whole series of great shots, and the one you see here is one of the best.
This started out as a pretty straightforward pencil drawing. However, I’ve recently begun varying my pencil leads more. What I mean is, where I used to customarily use a single pencil for an entire drawing, I’ve begun using different hardnesses for different purposes in the drawing. So for the darkest darks I’m using a very soft lead, and for the lightest areas (well, actually the second-lightest areas since leaving the paper untouched supplies the lightest lights) I use a very hard lead. For those of you who are draughtsmen and are interested in specifics, here’s what I’ve been using: For the darkest darks, I use a 2B or a 3B, occasionally even a 4B. For less-dark darks, I use a B (more or less equivalent to a number 1 pencil). For darker middle tones, I use an HB, and for lighter middle tones, an F. For the lightest shadow areas, I’ll use an H, and occasionally for even lighter tones, a 2H or a 3H. You can get by using just a couple of different hardnesses and you’ll still have plenty of range for most drawings, since just varying the pressure already gives you so much range with pencils. But if you want really subtle, fine variations in tone, use 4 or 5 variations in hardness. That’s what I wanted in this drawing, and it definitely made a difference. One challenge was the tattoo. This is where the different pencils really helped. There’s an overall subtlety and power to this drawing that I wouldn’t have been able to get with just 1 or 2 pencils. I call it “Polished” not just because it looks a bit as if Mike is polishing himself, but also because I feel like it’s one of the most polished drawings I’ve done to date.
I began a second drawing soon after. I wanted to keep this one a bit looser—doing two very meticulous, detailed drawings in a row is just a bit too much for me. I need variation. So I decided to do this one in a looser style. For my source image I chose a shot of Mike sitting on a towel and looking at something in the distance. I love the way his body looks in this photo, and his profile is really lovely.
Since I chose to do this drawing more loosely, I didn’t use so many variations of pencil lead. I mostly used a really soft pencil, and instead of careful crosshatching, did more of a scribble. Keeping the scribbles somewhat consistent, of course! Then, in places, I’d go in and smear the pencil lead to get softer variations in tone. That would then sometimes require going in again with a gneaded eraser to lift out highlights in the smeared areas. This approach gives the drawing a very different look than what you see in “Polished,” but it’s one I like just as much. It just has a different energy. I chose to leave the background out on this drawing, for two reasons—one, I’m lazy and didn’t want to draw all that, and two, the positive-negative spatial interplay I got by just putting the body against white space really worked. Or put more simply, the figure actually worked better and was stronger without the background. I called this one “Near Sandy’s” (“Sandy’s” is the local nickname for Sandy Beach, which is very near the location where we did our photo shoot).
A few days later, I decided I wanted to do a simple acrylic painting of Mike. I chose an image where Mike is just beginning to remove his boardshorts. I found the gesture beautiful and intriguing. The original image was a little dark and low-contrast so I tweaked it in Photoshop before beginning to do preparatory sketches. I did several sketches in pencil, then did a light-and-shadow study in colored pencil. I was still not sure what I was going to do color-scheme-wise, but with just a single figure on a colored background, I wasn’t too worried that I’d be able to make it work.
Painting the figure turned out to be a pretty straightforward task, using standard light-and-shadow techniques and naturalistic color.
Then, however, I added black outlines and an electric purple background (with a glow just behind the figure to make it ‘pop’). That gave the piece a cartoon-y, action-figure feeling, while the naturalistic rendering of the figure allows us to still appreciate the beauty and sexuality of the figure. I’m calling this one “Supermike.”
Update to this Entry:
In March 2013 I published an e-book called “Muse: Drawings and Paintings Inspired by Mike T.” You can purchase it for instant download here.